7spell is scientifically designed, and utilizes principles based on decades of research in learning, retention, and psychology. Here is a summary of the theory and research behind 7spell's effectiveness.
Craik, F., and Tulving, E. "Depth of processing and the retention of words in episodic memory." Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Vol 104(3) (1975): 268-294. Print and PDF. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0096-34220.127.116.118
In this seminal study performed at the University of Toronto, Canada, the authors performed a series of tests in which they gave the study participants a sequence of words to learn, with information related to each word as it appeared in order. They discovered that when the information provided stimulated the participant's brain to process the word on a more involved level (referred to as "deep encoding" or "degree of elaboration" in the study), that word was more effectively learned and remembered. With 7spell, the user is given a wide range of additional information about each spelling word, including the word's definition - one of the key factors in enhanced memory, according to this study - as well as usage examples, synonyms, and antonyms.
Garcia, S.M., Tor, A., and Schiff, T.M. "The Psychology of Competition: A Social Comparison Perspective." Perspectives on Psychological Science, November 2013, 8(6):634-650. Print and web. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1745691613504114
Each person is influenced by a unique set of factors related to their own status and progress towards goals, but is also affected to a greater or lesser degree by the achievements and perceived standards of the people around them. This analysis of past and current studies looks at the way people view and are motivated by individual goals as well as societal achievement (competition). The authors conclude that effective use of motivational strategies must take both into account. This is something that 7spell accomplishes by providing each user with the ability to set personal goals, earn reward points, and view their own progress tracking reports, and also to publish all of those results on public social media platforms.
Kivetz, R., Urminsky, O., and Zheng, Y. "The Goal-Gradient Hypothesis Resurrected: Purchase Acceleration, Illusionary Goal Progress, and Customer Retention." Journal of Marketing Research, February 2006, 43(1):39-58. Web. http://dx.doi.org/10.1509/jmkr.43.1.39
In a study focusing on the influence of reward-scheme programs on behavior, the authors found that when people see visible progress towards their goals they are more likely to increase the activity required to reach those goals. The study also confirms that most people are also motivated by receiving rewards for completing specific activities, even if those rewards are not immediately transferable to actual material or monetary benefits. Status points, rewards, and real-time progress tracking are all methods used in 7spell to encourage frequent spelling practice by awarding points for the completion of exercises and activities. Because the user can access their progress charts at any time, they will always be able to see how close they are to achieving their personal spelling goals.
Buton, M., Winterbauer, N., and Todd, T. "Relapse processes after the extinction of instrumental learning: Renewal, resurgence, and reacquisition." Behavioural Processes, May 2012, 90(1): 130–141. Print and web. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.beproc.2012.03.004
Instrumental learning, also called "operant conditioning," is a method by which behaviors are learned in connection with a stimulus, a reward, or both. In this research done at the University of Vermont, the authors studied the ways in which the information connected to a specific behavior is retained when the stimulus is removed, and how subsequent repetition or reward reinforces information recall and a resumption of previously learned behaviors. They conclude that there are two primary methods of reinforcing active memory and behavior: by creating a different way to test the subject's memory, and by providing the opportunity for intensive focused repetition of that stimulus-behavior response. These two methods are widely used in the 7spell activities and games to create the link between instruction and memory that is so crucial in effective spelling learning on the student's part.
Xue, G., Mei, L., Chen, C., Lu, Z-L., Poldrack, R., Dong, Q. "Spaced Learning Enhances Subsequent Recognition Memory by Reducing Neural Repetition Suppression." Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 2011;23(7):1624-1633. Print and web. http://doi:10.1162/jocn.2010.21532
In this study comparing long-term and short-term memory, the study authors tested the neural activity of participants as they memorized a set of images. Half of the study participants used massed learning techniques, in which each new image was presented multiple times in a row; the other half were given the images in a spaced repetition mode, where the images were shown in alternating order. Although each participant saw each image the same number of times, the people in the spaced-repetition exercise were able to accurately remember more images, and for a longer period of time. Repetition is a key technique in learning spelling, and 7spell incorporates spaced repetition in two ways. First, the system uses randomized selection of spelling words from the user's current list to populate the activities and exercises, ensuring an interval between word reviews. Second, the system's Word Discover feature provides pop-up instant review of the words on that list, again in random order. By providing users with multiple opportunities throughout the day to read and review their words, 7spell provides all of the benefits of the spaced repetition methodology in its spelling instruction.
Blocki, J., Cranor, L., Datta, A., and Komanduri, S. "Spaced Repetition and Mnemonics Enable Recall of Multiple Strong Passwords." Cornell University Library, January 3, 2015. PDF. http://arxiv.org/abs/1410.1490v2
Spaced repetition is a memory training tool that relies on frequent and consistent review of information; mnemonics is a memory technique that involves multiple ways of looking at that information, such as the incorporation of images or story lines. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University focused on the combination of spaced repetition and mnemonics in evaluating how best to train people to remember specific pieces of information: computer passwords. They found that by combining the two methodologies, the results in both ease of learning and retention were increased. 7spell uses each method separately and together to help users learn and remember new spelling words by using the same words in multiple exercises, presenting spelling words in a variety of formats, and encouraging users to add information related to each word to make a personal connection that helps them to remember that word and its correct spelling.
Language is magic. Being a living entity, language is the playground for wit, creativity, debate, and passionate banter. It never ceases to evolve, and the words that people create are a constant surprise. Spelling bees serve to demonstrate language mastery, but how often do you come across spelling bees on newly-created tech, urban slang and web buzzwords?
Urban Dictionary is an open web-based dictionary where anyone can input a word and its definition. The words are, for the most part, slang words – the category of words that tend to evolve the most quickly. This online dictionary has more than 7 million definitions and word descriptions that are predominantly witty, pop-culture terms and concepts. One of these words, “brofessional,” refers to a young man dedicated to “bro-only” activities, like partying, gaming, and flirting. Another newly-coined word is “cleptopenia,” the unconscious and unintended stealing of pens at schools, public services and corporate settings.
The 2014 spelling bee champions from this year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee, Sriram Hathwar and Ansun Sujoe, were called upon by Mashable.com to spell some of the made-up words found in Urban Dictionary.
The two young men (future brofessionals?) successfully spelled “cleptopenia,” and then were asked to spelling the word “Googleheimer.” They spelled this word correctly, too. In case you were wondering, “Googleheimer” means the situation when you want to Google something but by the time you have access to a computer you no longer remember what you wanted to Google.
“Crowny,” a word that describes an object or person that’s highly desirable or of premium quality (that is, deserving the status of being or belonging to royalty), was another Urban Dictionary word successfully spelled by one of the two spelling champions.
“Procrastineating”, “Feeling Drake” and “textpectation” were three more words that challenged Sriram and Ansun. The two proved their spelling skills mastery once again, managing to correctly spell these urban slang words. Although the definition of many of these was rather hard to guess, Sriram and Ansun proved that spelling skills help you estimate new words’ orthography with a high percentage of accuracy.
This video shows the two spelling champs using their spelling-honed deductive skills and showing off their abilities, something that should inspire anyone who has a hard time figuring out the spelling of these or other words.
Urban Dictionary words reflect the wit, creativity and ever-changing status of the English language. Technology has given a lot of new official and informal words and concepts. For instance, “PHOBAR” is an acronym for Photoshopped Beyond All Recognition, a word meant to describe images of people that are circulating in social media where the images have been heavily manipulated and airbrushed so that the person in the picture is hardly recognizable.
Can you guess the meaning of the words “snowhawk” and “professional celebrity” – and could you spell them correctly, too?
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